WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU START A RESISTANCE TRAINING PROGRAM & WHY IT’S LIKE BEING A NEWCOMER
By O. R. Marv
If you are new to the resistance training game, or returning from a long hiatus – stop what you are doing and READ THIS POST! It is important to know the facts about what occurs in the body when you are starting or returning to this type of training. This way you can be realistic with your expectations and approach your new, healthier lifestyle with the correct mindset.
NOTE: Resistance training can be free weights, machines, resistance bands, or even bodyweight exercises.
I’ll start with the bad news then explain what this means. For most people up to the first 4 weeks, absolutely ZERO changes will occur in terms of muscularity.
NOT A ONE.
It can even be as long as 6 weeks if your new resistance training approach is sporadic and inconsistent and even then that’s hopeful. This is one of the MAIN REASONS so many people QUIT lifting and give up. You may lose some body fat in the beginning weeks, but in terms of muscular hypertrophy (growth) zero point zero. So, most people bust their freaking asses for a whole month, and when they don’t see the results in the mirror they figure “what’s the point?” and quite.
DO NOT BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE!
So if your muscles aren’t growing what the heck is going on?!? Neuromuscular connection formation.
In the simplest of terms, your body is figuring out how to use itself. The brain is strengthening its neural pathways with your muscles. Your body is learning how to contract this muscle and that muscle. It’s learning how to coordinate multiple muscle groups to perform a specific exercise. When you first start resistance training you can think of your body as an infant learning how to walk.
Or in a more applicable example, think about it as your first 30 days in Recovery. We don’t really know what the hell is going on other than these strangers we are now associating with are way too happy and seem way too interested in helping us. I mean, they HAVE to have an angle right? It’s pretty much like that.
If you’ve never performed resistance training before the exercises can seem foreign and uncomfortable as you’re not exactly sure what’s going on. You may be worried about other people judging you if you work out in a gym and feel exposed.
SPOILER ALERT: Everyone is too worried about themselves to pay mind to you trying to figure out how to perform a specific exercise.
Again, it’s just like those early days as a Newcomer. We mimic our new friends, we do our best to avoid old habits and behaviors, and if we choose to utilize 12 step fellowships we attend meetings even though they most likely feel very awkward and you may feel really vulnerable.
Now for someone who spent years pushing iron but took significant time off there will be a brief re-training period (typically this period lasts 2 weeks instead of the initial 4). The same exact process will occur.
Just like in recovery from some sort of addiction, exercise and specifically resistance training can be approached with the same “One Day at a Time” mindset. For me in the beginning of getting clean and sober I held on one day at a time. For that one day I had a good idea I wouldn’t drink or use drugs. If I looked too far in the future though, I wasn’t so sure I could accomplish this.
“How the hell am I supposed to stay clean/sober for the rest of my life let alone a few months in a row?!?” my brain would shout.
But if I approached things in 24 hour segments - well, let’s be honest in the very beginning it was brutal hellacious minute by brutal hellacious minute - I was able to be somewhat OK and refrain from relapse.
Now hopefully this mindset won’t have to be used in this extreme measure when it comes to resistance training. BUT…..if you approach your new resistance program one workout at a time, it may be much easier to swallow than thinking “I have at minimum a whole month of hard work before I can see any benefits of doing so.”
Instead, sometimes blindly committing to your new workout program with the faith it will pay off in the end will be MUCH more beneficial. Not to mention, a much healthier mental approach
Granted, we as people in recovery, by nature are not the most patient lot. But if you’ve learned anything from any stint of time in recovery it hopefully is that patience and consistency eventually pays off.
No I didn’t get everything I wanted in the beginning of getting clean and sober – not the house, not the cars, not the job, etc. I didn’t stop drinking and using and the next day feel like a million bucks. I didn’t immediately gain mental, emotional, and spiritual maturity. The world was not handed to me on a silver platter. I was not given the winning lottery numbers….although I am still waiting on those!
I approached my return to resistance training the same way once I got out of treatment in October of 2013 – in fact I didn’t start working out again until December of 2013 to ensure I had done adequate work on my insides via the steps and therapy before I focused on my outsides to make sure old body dysmorphia issues didn’t take hold of me again. I wasn’t going to re-gain my muscle size, definition, and maturity overnight.
But having the realistic knowledge I had a re-training period to break through enabled me to be at peace with my progress. In closing, let me repeat – you will not see any actual muscle growth in the opening weeks of starting or returning to resistance training.
You may THINK your muscles are growing when looking in the mirror, but that is a result of losing some body fat or the temporary pump from hitting the weights. (Hence the quickest way to make it look like you gained 10 lbs. of muscle is drop a couple lbs. of body fat.)
DO NOT GIVE UP. HAVE FAITH THAT YOUR HARD WORK WILL PAY OFF. IT DID IN RECOVERY AND WILL DO THE SAME HERE. CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY TO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING IN LIFE AND RESISTANCE TRAINING IS NO DIFFERENT.
We can accomplish anything. Hell if we can overcome addiction we can do anything we freaking want to! Remember that – we are always MUCH stronger than what we give ourselves credit for.
Simply approach things One Day at a Time.
One Set at a Time.
One Rep at a Time.
And you may just be surprised as you’ll end up LIFTING YOUR SPIRIT sooner than you may think!